Sunday 18 June 2023

social fathers day media

Just sat down with my morning cup of tea, running late as I should be out of the door now and on my way to the lake for the morning's race, and this came up on FB. So spelling and punctuation are not my daughter's stronge (sic!) point, but that's as much the nature of the media the message has been posted on as anything else, I think. Needless to say, I'm touched.

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Open Mic: American Pie

There was an open mic night at The Whittle Taps in Cheltenham last Thursday so, for the first time in quite a while, the band let me out on my own. I say "on my own" but to my delight, Nikki and Dad agreed to come out with me. In exchange, it has to be said, for me buying them supper.

But it was a good supper, and a lovely night, catching up with friends and musicians I haven't seen in an inordinately long time. 

And I got to play American Pie, which I haven't done in an even longer time. So I wasn't actually certain I'd remember all the words. 

But the song is like an old friend; you go months or even years without seeing them and then, out of the blue, you happily get the chance again. And that gap in time just falls away between you like it was only yesterday.

Laser: creatures of the sun

Wednesday. My car is back on the drive, and I'm relieved I paid off our mortgage last month, as it made the sting of the mechanic's bill just a little bit easier to bear.

I'm back under blue sails this evening, having agreed to crew for my friend Geoff again in his Enterprise at Frampton; his regular crew, Sue, still being elsewhere engaged. Much as I love South Cerney, Frampton is much more convenient for a Wednesday evening race, being only twenty minutes down the road from home.

South Cerney is more like thirty-five, which is a difference of only fifteen minutes each way, of course. But it's funny how much of an impact losing thirty minutes in the car can have on a mid-week evening.

Besides, Geoff and the Frampton mob are good company. With regards to South Cerney, there are another 13 races left in their Hotdogs series and I only need another four to qualify, so I can afford to skip a few weeks to sail with a friend.

I was going to crew for Geoff again last Wednesday, but he's been struggling with a bit of an early summer cold and had to cry off. So last week I took the extra half an hour's commute in the car on the chin and raced the Laser around the cans at South Cerney instead. 

The video at the top is of the starting sequence last Wednesday, from the initial three minute warning, up to where I tacked off onto port on the first crucial beat up to the windward mark. It was the most interesting clip out of the hour long video the GoPro recorded, because there were still plenty of other boats around. 

I did manage to make it around the windward mark first, but then got caught up by Gary in his RS300 and Nicola in her Aero, and spent the rest of the race essentially playing tag with them. I beat them both in the end on handicap, my boat being theoretically much slower than either of theirs, but wrapped up in our game of tag, we all got beaten in turn by Jonny and his crew in his GP14.

It was fun though. I'm not particularly enjoying the wind at the moment, it's generally too light and, settled uncharacteristically in the north east, horribly inconsistent and shifty. However, I am otherwise very much enjoying the weather. The temperatures have consistently been reaching the high 20's for the last few weeks, and I am most definitely a creature of the sun.

Monday 12 June 2023

of Barnabas and a broken car

I had quite a busy weekend planned. Friday puppy training, Saturday morning karate, Saturday afternoon I'd offered to crew for one of the Club's juniors in a Flying Fifteen at South Cerney, Saturday night home and then straight out for a gig in Thornbury.

Sunday was back to the lake, race the Albacore with Amanda in the morning, then the Laser in the afternoon.

I got the car washed and valeted on Friday afternoon. It's not a regular thing. I like my car, it makes many things possible, but a car, for me, will only ever be a means to an end. So once every, shall we say optimistically, six months (or so) I'll pull into the local car wash. The guys, none of whom for which English is a first language, will hit us with their jet-wash and soap, polish and industrious elbow grease.

Then one of the guys will open my car door and ask "inside?" and I'll smile and say please. He then glances inside, politely tries to hide his shock, and stutters, almost as a question, as if he can't actually picture it despite it all being laid out before him, "Is very dirty?"

And we'll agree a revised price. Which I always gracefully accept and always tip them well on top of it because they all cheerfully work like Trojans, in all seasons and all weathers, and always restore my hard-used vehicle to shiny, pristine condition.

Which they did. And I enjoyed a very pleasant half hour in the sun, watching the valeting crew periodically diverting the jet washes of the washing crew to the job of de-clogging their industrial vacuums of the seemingly endless supply of dust and doghair they were mining from the dark, gloaming pit that is the interior of my car.

Saturday morning started well. The weather is still very muggy, a point about which I appear to be almost unique amongst my countrymen in finding no complaint, I love the heat, humid or otherwise; but the hour in the dojo was very warm work. Having promised to be at the Club for 1300, as soon as karate finished, it was straight into the car to head for South Cerney.

I didn't get very far. Half way up the hill towards St Barnabas roundabout, named after the church that stands next to it on the corner between Stroud and Finlay roads, a big red warning light lit up my dashboard along with the ominous message "Charging Failure: Service Urgent"

Reaching the roundabout, conscious that when my car tells me "Service Urgent" it really means RIGHT NOW I had my fears confirmed as another message popped up, "DSTC Temporarily disabled".

It's meaning was immediately clear, as the steering became very heavy underhand as the power assist failed, and the brake beneath my foot suddenly started to feel very direct and mechanical.

I pulled off the roundabout and into the small layby opposite St Barnabas Church, outside the church's community hall. Stopped the car. Tried to start it again. Battery dead.

So instead of spending a couple of hours racing a Flying Fifteen around a lake in the sunshine and thundery squalls that had been promised for the afternoon (and, I'm told, delivered in full) I spent a couple of hours sitting in the hot sun, waiting for the AA.

It wasn't all bad. Too hot to sit and wait in the car, the church hall (opposite side of the road to the church itself) had a secluded little gravelled garden nestled behind the the bus stop on the side of the road, signposted "Garden of Tranquillity, everybody welcome". So I retreated there to await the AA man. 

And neither was all lost. Later that evening, we decanted the contents of the band's trailer into my brother's van and Dad's car, and Dad gave me a lift to the evening's gig. The following morning I borrowed Dad's car again to head to the lake.

En-route, Amanda messaged me to cry off; the forecast (hot and windless) was, understandably, not to her taste. So I rigged the Laser for the morning's races. Most of the club had drawn a similar conclusion to Amanda's. A couple of Fifteens launched, along with three Solos. In my fleet, only a couple of the club's juniors, Ava and Monty, crewing the club's RS200, launched to challenge me.

The north easterly that has been plaguing us for the last few weeks had shifted briefly into the north west, which was welcome but it was very light, averaging less than 4 knots. A few lively gusts teased us through the first lap of the first race, along with an accompaniment of light, warm rain, falling in thick, slow and heavy drops. After that the wind dropped, although the light showers continued intermittently.

Two races. The kids thrashed me in the first whilst there was still a little bit of wind to get their asymmetric working, beating me by more than a minute, even after our times had been adjusted by our respective handicaps. I managed to scratch back a little bit of my battered dignity in the second, beating them by a few seconds after adjustment, the absolute drift neutralising most of the advantage of their spinnaker over my single sail.

With the wind only forecast to drop further as the day progressed, I put the boat away, skipped the afternoon race and headed home to return Dad's car. As the afternoon cooled into evening, I finished off the weekend with walking the dogs, and getting supper ready for when Nik finally finished work, domestic god that I am (not!)

Turned out the car had broken the belt driving the alternator. It's in the garage now, and I await news of its restoration and the bill accompanying. It's always a pain when they break, but in fairness my old Volvo is one of the most robust and reliable vehicles I've owned, and as far as timing is concerned, annoying as it was to miss the opportunity to sail Saturday afternoon, it could've been much, much worse.

Saturday 10 June 2023


I'm currently sat at my desk, sipping my morning cup of tea, thinking I ought to get my kit together, because in half an hour I head out to karate, and then straight from there to the sailing club to race this afternoon. The club has somehow persuaded the Flying Fifteens fleet to lend their boats to the juniors, and I've (been) volunteered to crew for one of them.

After that, it's home and then straight back out for tonight's gig.

The trouble is, I can't currently move because I have a puppy asleep beneath my desk with her head nestled on my feet and I don't have the heart to move her.

I sometimes wonder who owns who. Actually, I don't. The answer is pretty obvious

Wednesday 7 June 2023

Freefall: Saturday night

A clip from our gig last Saturday at The Railway Tavern in Bristol, a cover of "America" by a band called Razorlight. All the usual cautions as to being judicious with your volume control apply should you chose to play it. 

Think I've mentioned before how much I enjoy this venue. And, true to form, they were once again a lovely, lively crowd.

And nobody threatened to "do me in" this time, which is always a happy bonus!

Tuesday 6 June 2023

business as usual

You know it was a good weekend when you have to pause to try and remember what you got up to Friday evening. Turns out it was just the usual date night with Lottie, which was just me and my girl this week as our son Ben and his fiancé Hannah had told us they were planning to drop in, so Nik stayed home to wait for them.

They were still there when we got home from dog training. They're both teachers at a school down in Bristol, so we only ever get to see them at half-term which, apparently, was last week. It was lovely to see them again however. Jack was particularly pleased.

Saturday morning was the usual session at karate; I briefly entertained the idea of heading down to the lake to race the Laser Saturday afternoon, but with a gig planned for the evening in the end opted to stay home, cook me and my youngest son, Sam, some lunch and string a guitar.

The gig was a mad, crazy affair. One of our favourite regular venues, The Railway Tavern in Fishponds, Bristol; when we arrived to set up at 1930 the bar was deserted. We mused that it might turn into a quiet night. Warm, sunny days can be like that, as people tend to end up peaking early so don't necessarily stay out. 

We couldn't have been more wrong. Within an hour, they started to filter in from the street and pub garden, and by the time we started, just on the back of 2130, the place was heaving.

So we had a good gig. Well, most of us. My brother Jamie, our bassist, did not. Early in the first set one of the tuning peg holding his bottom E string snapped, so he had to manage the rest of the night on just three strings, transposing almost everything on the fly.

The crowd didn't care, except for the one or two at the front that were seriously impressed that he made an almost flawless job of it. But self flagellation is his speciality, and he was quite mortified by his own assessment of his performance. 

It's just one of those things. I break strings all the time, so have spare strings ever to hand and if one goes I can generally have it replaced before the end of the song without interruption. I even have a spare guitar near to hand, if it comes to that.

That's not how the bass guitar works though, and in more than thirty years, Jay's not broken a string on stage, let alone the tuning machine peg holding the string in place. I felt for him, but he did good, held himself together and got on with the show. And the crowd loved it.

I was home and finally in bed by about 0400 Sunday morning, so when the alarm went off at 0830, it felt particularly brutal. The evening before, I'd toyed with the idea of taking Calstar out with Dad; a spring tide with low water around 1400, if we'd locked out at 1030, we could've made it down channel, around the Holms and back up. 

The forecast was in the high teens, which in itself was not a problem, but the wind direction was from the north east where, annoyingly, it has sat for quite a while now. Rounding the Holms on Sunday would've meant running down to Flat Holm with the wind and tide, and then turning to beat back home again against a fresh north easterly set over a flooding spring tide. 

So Sunday morning I left Dad in peace to recover from the night before (I actually can't remember the last time he missed a gig) and set off to South Cerney to race my Laser on the lake. A gusty, shifty day with bright, warm sunshine, the racing both morning and afternoon was fun and challenging, if occasionally frustrating.

Three races, two in the morning back to back, followed by a ninety minute pursuit in the afternoon. I didn't win any of them, but managed a second place in the afternoon, beaten by Ali and Cat in their Merlin Rocket in the last fifteen minutes. I snapped the primary line on the Laser's cunningham early in the race, which made the beats tricky and inefficient and cost me a dry capsize. But I can't blame my kit, the Rocket sailed a good, fast race, so would've caught me anyway.

In any case, a day out on the water playing with the Laser was a perfect finish to a good weekend.